Vadu Crișului Cave (Cascada Cave, Zichy Cave) is located in the centre of the Crișul Repede Gorge and is crossed by a stream that forms a spectacular waterfall after the exit. It was discovered by Karl Handl, an employee of the railway, a nature lover. While hiking, he noticed a hole in the rock above the spring and saw bats flying out of it. He guessed that a big cave was hiding inside so he told Czárán Gyula, considered the father of the Apuseni Mountains tourism, about his discovery. On November 10, 1903, Czárán Gyula dynamited the rock block and opened up the cave. Czárán and Handl, accompanied by the Reformed priest of the area, Veress István, another passionate of nature, made the first researches and set up the cave, building wooden stairs and bridges.
Czárán Gyula gave the first guided tour of the cave in 1905 when the natural monument was first opened for visiting.
The first map of the cave, with details on the location of the bridges, stairs, the tour, as well as the most representative formations, was published in 1907 by Monoky Gyula, a railway surveyor.
The exploration and mapping of the cave has been resumed by many researchers, including Emil Racoviță, the founder of the first biospeology institute in the world. Research has shown that the water flowing into Bătrânului Cave, located 3 km away, reappears in Vadu Crișului Cave following an underground course.
Since its discovery, the cave has been considered the most intact and beautiful cave in Europe and has been among the most important tourist and scientific objectives in Bihor.
The cave is famous, from a biospeological point of view, especially, due to the troglobion species, both terrestrial and aquatic, some of which being endemic. This is also the natural habitat of a large bat colony, with various species protected in Europe.
Skeletal remains of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), which lived until 27.000 years ago were discovered close to the entrance in the cave, on the side gallery.
In 1969, the museum of Oradea renovates the cave, installing metal stairs and concrete bridges, introducing electricity on a length of 500 m, becoming the second cave in Romania with electric lighting after the Women’s Cave from Baia de Fier (1957).
Access is made via the gorge, by train, from Oradea or Cluj-Napoca to Halta Peștera stop, or on foot, from the towns of Vadu Crișului (1.9 km) or Șuncuiuș (2.6 km).
Currently, the cave is in the administration of the Museum, which re-electrified and renovated the visitable area according to European standards, on a circuit lasting 30-60 minutes. Tourist groups can choose guided tours in Romanian or Hungarian.
Photos by: Sorin Sotoc